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Spectrum News 1: COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects Explained

Healthcare workers received the COVID-19 vaccine beginning in mid-December and now many have received both of their doses.  Some are reporting noticing more side effects from the second shot than they did from the first dose.

Spectrum News 1 reporter Taylor Bruck talked to a couple of OhioHealth providers to learn more about their side effects.

“I went to bed at 9:00 (they day of my second vaccine), I was like, Oh gosh, I really don't feel good. Like I was, like my bones ached. I was freezing cold. I had an upset stomach. I don't think I really ever felt like I was feverish, but I was just cold," said Michelle Diederich, NP, a nurse practitioner in the ICU at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital. So, I had stuff like blankets on just about like my body ached. And I was supposed to work the next day. So I was like, well, let me see how I feel. So, I woke up in the morning, and I honestly felt terrible. I felt like, for lack of a better term, I got ran over by a truck,” said Diederich

She took the next day off of work, and after a day at home taking Advil and Tylenol, was fine the next day.

Joe Gastaldo, MD, OhioHealth system medical director of infectious diseases, said some people will experience side effects after receiving the vaccine and some won't.  It just depends on your immune system.  But either way, it is working.

Symptoms can be flu-like, especially after your second shot, with some people reporting arm soreness, headaches, low-grade fever and chills.  These symptoms usually last about a day.

“It's part of your immune system, recognizing the spike protein that you get in the vaccine. We call that immunogenicity," said Dr. Gastaldo.  "And when people have those side effects of a headache, muscle pain, a low-grade temperature elevation — that's your body's way of saying, 'you know what, I'm recognizing this. I'm making a spike protein, and we're getting your immune system already to go to recognize this virus in the event that you come across it.'”

No matter which COVID-19 vaccine you receive, it will be a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine.  According to the CDC, these vaccines contain pieces of coated genetic material (called mRNA) that give cells "instructions" on how to make a piece of spike protein.  The spike protein then leads to the production of antibodies by the immue system. mRNA vaccines do not alter your genetic makeup.  

“The messenger RNA vaccine really does induce a very good immune response. These are really newer generations of vaccines moving forward. We are likely going to have more of them, but they really do induce a very robust or other or otherwise strong immune response,” said Gastaldo.

Diederich said even with the side effects she experienced, she's glad she got the vaccine.

"If I could spare my family from watching what we have to deal with at work, I would do it 10 times over," she said.

Want to learn more about vaccine side effects? To see video of the full story, click here or on the Spectrum News 1 logo below.